The true account of the death of the philosopher Socrates serves as a parable of the hopelessness of the world. With the poison of hemlock already flowing through his veins and death momentarily awaiting him, one of his disciples leaned forward to him and whispered, “Master, shall we live again?”
That’s an important question for which all men should be certain of the answer — and all the more when known death is minutes away from them. Socrates, imminent in scholarship, revealed his lack of wisdom when he answered, “I hope so…but no man can know for sure.”
What a tragic way to enter eternity.
The believer’s hope is infinitely different and greater.
It has been noted that “worldly hope is consistently a whimsical aspiration, ‘if it only were true’ mentality, while mixed with concrete expectations in wrong objects. Biblical hope is a concrete expression (1 Thess. 4:13) in proper objects, namely, God and his promises.” [Greg Gifford]
Worldly hope is a desire or dream while biblical hope is a certain confidence. Worldly hope is a desire that might occasionally be met; biblical hope is an assurance that what God has promised cannot go unmet (it must be provided). Worldly hope is based on temporal finite “providers” while biblical hope is fixed on the infinite and sovereign Creator.
Years ago I wrote this — and two decades later it is still true: “[The believer’s] hope is not the one of wishes and dreams, but one a confident and secure expectation. It is still future, yes, but the reality of it is sure because of the One who promised it (God the Father), the One who secured it (Christ), and the One who guarantees it (the Holy Spirit). And nothing can take away that confidence. No catastrophe. No enemy. No evil. Not even death. It is a living hope. It has begun already and continues on into eternity. It is a living hope different from every other living thing we know. It is living and it will stay living. We know our hope (i.e., confident expectation) will stay alive because our Savior has remained alive. Nothing can take His life. Nothing can take our life.” [From an email devotional on 5/19/98]
Because the object of our hope is God in Heaven (Ps. 71:5; 146:5; 1 Tim. 1:1), we can be commanded to have hope and live hopefully (see Ps. 42:5, 11; 43:5; 62:5; 1 Tim. 6:17; 1 Pt. 1:21). And that’s why Paul reminds the Ephesians that as he prays for them, he asks God to open their eyes to the reality of the hope of their calling — the certainty and confidence of God’s effectual call to salvation (Eph. 1:18). For the one who has been called and brought into salvation, there is no need for despondency. He can rest confidently in God’s promise.
Centuries ago, Philip Henry (Matthew’s father) reminded us of this when he said, “All the good that we look for, we do and look for only from, by, and through our Lord Jesus Christ. Others may possibly make other things the object of their hope, but we must make the Lord Jesus Christ alone the object of our hope.” [Christ All in All]
To be hopeful in Christ does not minimize the reality of disappointments, difficulties, and death in this world. There will be hardships and sorrows. But none of these are final or fatal to the believer in Christ. We have a secure and safe (and eternally good) end. We can be confident in our end and in the One who provides and keeps us until the end.
“NYC – Metropolitan Museum of Art – Death of Socrates” by wallyg is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0